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Found on the eighth floor of Conrad Hong Kong hotel in Admiralty, Nicholini's is a large, high-ceilinged restaurant with generously spaced tables. A large art piece on the ceiling in a circular pattern makes the room feel appealingly round, and most of the walls featuring floor-to-ceiling Windows that look out over nearby buildings. Some seats offer views across to Central.
Serving up fine Italian cuisine, the menu features four or five dishes in each section: appetisers; pasta, risotto and soup; and mains, each of which is split into classic or contemporary, the former featuring such Italian menu mainstays as parmigiana, caprese and carpaccio, while the latter comprises slightly more unusual and creative combinations. Picking from the contemporary selection, the signature scallops with lentil soup is an unusual combination but one that works very well. Beautifully cooked scallops, perfect in texture, pair well with the flavourful lentil soup with Montepulciano reduction, well seasoned and a good-sized portion. The red prawn tartar is beautifully presented - a flat dish with plenty of colour on the plate – featuring excellent flavour and texture combinations that include a sumtuously smooth mortadella mousse that pairs surprising well with the raw fish, while a sprinkling of pistacios adds texture to every mouthful. The signature spaghettoni is well executed – a sharp kick of chilli adding to the dish while fresh prawn and light garlic is complemented by pasta done to a beautiful al dente with a light drizzle of passion fruit and cacao nibs on top adding a sweetness and crunch. The turbot – a distinctly firm and meaty fish, is flavourful and comes with a topping of delicious briny caviar and fava bean mash. While the accompanying sauce is delicious, there is rather too much, not allowing the quality turbot to shine through enough. For dessert, the Mille feuille for two comes highly recommended and its preparation table side is a treat in itself as the restaurant's chef emerges from behind the scenes to decorate a large glass plate with swirls and drops of milk and white chocolate, and puréed fruit before stacking the Mille feuille - Chantilly cream, slices of puff pastry, fresh fruits and mini meringues up and up. The culmination is a delicious dessert, most of the fun of which is in the preparation.
The wine list is extensive and covers a good range of Italian and French bottles as well as wines from other grape-growing areas. The menu also features short, sharp tasting notes, a useful addition for when staff seem unsure of their own recommendations. Bottles range in price from a reasonable low end around the $500 mark to plenty at the higher end, meaning there is something here for most budgets. There is also a good selection of wines by the glass.
From the taking of orders to the arrival of the first course, there is an abnormally long wait and it is a while before staff inform us that our dishes will be arriving soon. Further on in the meal, service feels somewhat removed and at times even awkward. Recommendations can be difficult to eilict and wine pairing suggestions seem somewhat picked at random and not in consideration of the food. Other staff are better acquainted with recommendations and pairing suggestions and able to introduce the dishes with confidence and accuracy.
A three-course meal for two with wine rings in around $2,200 which is fairly standard for a restaurant of this quality. Service could be improved as one expects better when paying this price.